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Beyond Saying “Cheese!”

I’m about to go up to the 8th floor of the building to have my picture taken for a “Women in Business at ITC” ad. I’m a little nervous because it’s not often that the roles are reversed and I’m the one being photographed for an ad. I wouldn’t say I am camera-shy, but do you know anyone who REALLY enjoys having their picture taken? Unless you’re one of my friends and we’re in a bar and it’s 4a.m., I don’t know a single person.
I have found that the people who are the most camera-shy are usually the ones who believe with all their hearts that they are not photogenic. Now pardon my french, but that’s a bunch of bullcrap. Everyone can look good, even great, in a photograph. And the key is not in the person. It’s in the photographer.
If the person having their picture taken doesn’t feel comfortable with their surroundings or with the photographer, it’s going to show in print. And though it might not necessarily turn out to be a bad photo, the chances are it’s not going to live up to its potential. I always tell whomever it is I’m going to shoot to wear something they like and feel good in (avoid black). Before that person arrives in studio, I purposely leave a few things unfinished in the set up so it gives me a few minutes to smalltalk with the person as I’m putting up a light, adjusting things, etc. That way by the time we begin, they’ve had a little time to adjust to their surroundings and we are not 100% strangers.
Here’s one of my secrets: for every person I’ve shot in studio, I think of a simple question to ask them, and by answering it causes the person to talk, open up, relax and hopefully forget that I am taking their picture. For Patrick it was, “Tell me about how you learned to play piano.” For Mico & Stevie it was, “Tell me about how you two met.” I always ask something they can easily answer and something they enjoy talking about. It makes a huge difference in the quality of your photograph when your subject is fully relaxed in front of the camera because they feel comfortable with you. Somewhere between sentences I’m calling out things like, “Tilt your head a little to the left. “Mico, kiss your husband on the cheek.” “Pat, give me that little half-smile of yours.” Direction is key. If you expect your model to just show up and pose without any direction from you, your pictures will be average and ordinary.
So if I’m lucky, the photographer waiting for me on the 8th floor will be an old pal who will open with, “Girl! I saw you at Brutus AND Venue TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW! Tell me what is up with that?!” And I’ll be all smiles and laughs….until I turn red with shame. lol

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4 Responses

  1. Christine Lalaine says:

    I know two people who love love LOVE to have their pictures taken–my mom and my brother. They are such hams. 😛 Unfortunately (or fortunately?), that specific type of photographic confidence has bypassed my genes.

  2. Gee, you put a lot of pressure on us photographers, haha.
    I have worked with all sorts of subjects, and I agree with your assessments and technique. As for my experience, I have worked with all sorts of subjects, but some models, who pose for a living, needs to learn to pose with little/few directions from the photographer. I am far too concerned with light, hair, make up, clothes, product, etc. to be coaxing a model to “give it.”
    Congrats on your “photoshoot.” But I admit I became a photographer because I don’t like my photograph taken.

  3. tricia says:

    This goes to show what a conscientious photographer you are, because you strive to capture your subject in his or her best, most comfortable light. It’s so heartening to read what you wrote, especially because I work in a place where even the prettiest models and actresses are never skinny enough, never flawless enough. Ive become almost immune to the amount of time our Art Department spends airbrushing, trimming hips and waists, deleting hair, large pores, tiny blemishes, you name it–and our publication isn’t even really that bad compared with the others out there that really go to town with PhotoShop.

  4. Jesse says:

    I never connected the two but the fact that I’m horrible at small talk and horrible at taking portraits makes a lot of sense now. Though sometimes it’s just easier to take pictures of nature.
    “I hate flowers. I only paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” Georgia O’Keeffe

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